Tuesday, January 11, 2011

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What do you get when you try to emulate the two worst American presidents in my lifetime? The answer is simple - Governor Chris Christie. His recent State of the State address made it clear that he is channelling both Ronald Reagan and George W Bush.

Chris Christie’s rise to prominence was due to his role as a second-tier player in the disastrous administration of George W Bush. As a loyal fundraiser for Mr Bush, Christie was appointed to the post of US Attorney for New Jersey despite his lack of criminal law experience. In an era when US Attorneys who refused to do the political bidding of the President and the Attorney General were summarily fired, Christie thrived.

Like Reagan, Christie is a master orator with limited substance. In his address to the New Jersey legislature, he resurrected the Gipper’s “shining city on the hill” to inspire his audience (or at least those on the right side of the aisle) without any specifics.

But Christie is emulating his two idols in more than substance. He is following their reverse Robin Hood policies to enrich his wealthy cronies while placing the burden on the middle class and the poor. In his State of the State address, Christie’s credibility is stretched when he claimed, “State taxes are lower— for the first time in a decade.” Although this is true if you are a wealthy New Jerseyan, as the Star-Ledger points out, if you are a low-wage earner, your taxes have gone up in the Christie administration.

Christie’s popularity in the state and nation are products of his oratory, a mainstream media which only recently has challenged his half truths, and a persona that is unique among politicians whose waffling on issues is usually done in the public arena. One thing I do believe is his assertion that he is not running for president in 2012. His political calculation is based on the economy’s improving, leading to an Obama landslide, or the economy’s tanking, leading to a more demagogic Tea Partier winning. But I have no doubt that Christie has his eye on the prize in 2016, and as Barack Obama did in 2004, the governor wants to make a splash on the national stage by delivering a rousing keynote address at the 2012 Republican National Convention. Today’s State of the State speech was a tryout for that position, and in that respect, the governor hit a home run.


My apologies to Richard Nixon who only came in third as the worst president in my lifetime. Your overtures to China and some of your environmental policies saved you from a more
dubious distinction. But your impeachable criminal actions leading to a pre-emptive resignation lock you in as number three.

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